Letterland NOT synthetic phonics...is it just me?

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Location: Berkshire

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Nov 27, 2005 1:40 pm

Sorry JAC and others. The newsletter will be available electronically when MrH has sufficient time to upload it.

Thank you for your patience.

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Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:05 am

Post by Kiki » Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:14 am

I know I should wait and read the Letter Land article before adding my ha'penny but I am so often asked about it and have so often warned against it.

Children do not all enter the process of learning to read on an equal footing. Some are more ‘vulnerable’ than others

My difficulty with Letter Land has always been that it sets up a two stage process. In my opinion, the objective of good programs is to set up a single stage “gut-reaction” process. For example, if a child sees a letter ‘a’ their gut response on that visual cue should be the short vowel sound /a/ etc

For many Letter Land children the response would be Annie Apple, the child then has to think about what bit of information to extract from Annie Apple that might help with decoding the word they are faced with. For many kids this is fairly easy but for, say 20% or 25%, it would be very difficult. These are the same kids who struggle with any program but the question is whether Letter Land can get these kids through.

For example, the main problem, as I understand it, with Analytic Phonics (AP) is where it starts. It starts by teaching whole words then moves on to breaking them down, analysing sounds then onto building up again. There is a lot of good material in analytic phonics programs but it is the start point that is so critical. AP gives children the idea that reading English is about recognising logographs (whole words). As I recall from the Clackmannanshire report the only children who were still significantly behind their chronological reading age by the end were those who hard started off with an analytic approach. They had never fully recovered from the ‘bad’ start. It seems to me that Letter Land gives these vulnerable children a similarly ‘bad’ start from which it is very difficult to recover. Remember that at this early age every educational experience is having real effects on how the child’s brain is developing and learning how to process.

Of course every progam must be implemented properly to properly evaluate it and, like Jenny, I have more often than not seen Jolly Phonics very poorly implemented but I think that Letter Land (as I have seen it used) has many more potential dangers than other programs. I will however look at the revised program with interest.

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Post by Elizabeth » Thu Dec 01, 2005 8:41 pm

I like Jolly Phonics mnemonics best, because the sound that goes with the action is directly the sound the letter represents - not the initial sound of a word.

for 'g', the children make their hand move round and round like water going down a plug hole and say, 'g ..g ..g '
for 'n', they stick their arms out like an aeroplane and say 'nnnnnnnn'
for 'sh', they put their fingers to their lips, and say'shshsh'
They say 'p' unvoiced, and pretend to blow out a candle.

Also, they give up the action quite naturally as they get more automatic (provided no one encourages them to keep it up).

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